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One of the best things about the current music scene is the way different styles come together to give the listener a new experience. Festivals are the best example of this, where funk, jam band, bluegrass, electronic, jazz, reggae, soul, and more co-exist. It can sometimes be hard to dig through the never-ending lists of bands and give each one that piques your interest the attention it deserves. Having said all of that, allow me to direct your ears to Brooklyn-based duo The Bergamot. Husband and wife Nathaniel Paul Hoff and Jillian Speece play a smile-inducing blend of folk-pop and vibrant, reverb-soaked electric jams. In Hoff’s words: "Well, we definitely pull from the alternative category quite extensively. We enjoy telling great stories in our songs, as is traditional of folk music, but we also like to have a good time on stage and create music that is high energy in a vintage brit-pop style. Alt-rock or alt-folk are probably the best categories you could put us in. Our sound has always evolved and will continue to do so."

One aspect of the band that really made me curious was the origins of the duo’s name. Hoff was happy to explain: "A bergamot is an Italian orange whose oil is used to induce happiness and relieve stress. When I first came across the word itself I was drawn to it. It just struck me as a pretty looking word - the letters flow nicely it looks interesting. Then I started doing some research and it really struck a chord with myself and Jillian (wife/bandmate) as well. After that, we never looked back. We have grown so well into our name, and it really does reflect a certain approach that we take to our art and our lives." The word bergamot is pretty appropriate, considering their music: uplifting, soulful, relaxing, with that air of sunset by the sea that we all love.

The Bergamot have made some real headway lately, performing at festivals such as Summer Camp and touring from Vermont to Colorado. Perhaps their biggest success (so far) however has been their song "Remedy" appearing on ABC’s Blood and Oil. When asked what it’s like to have created music that reaches people across platforms outside of live shows and albums, Hoff had this to say: "It’s surreal. I mean we work day in and day out touring, writing, and planning our careers. You never really build in the "when we start growing...FAST" part of the equation. So it has been highly rewarding to see our work sail well beyond where we had ever planned on it going. For us it just speaks to the fact that we have hit a nerve in our songwriting that resonates with a lot of people these days. But, it all comes back to hard work."

As far as hard work goes, I’ve always considered the actual writing process to be the hardest part of getting music to the people. How about Nathaniel and Jillian though? Hoff described the method thusly: "I am most intimately and deeply involved in the songwriting process. Although as a duo we do write together sometimes - I have found it easier to go a bit deeper in my own writing and then let Jillian sit back and decide what works and what needs some fine-tuning. I try to write everyday either a song, riff, or lyric - just something that I can look forward to working on the next time I sit down for a full writing session. I am thoroughly inspired by the land and the people that we have met out on the road. Writing for me starts with the music, then once I feel I have nailed a vibe, I try to go deeper and find the words that the music is speaking to me. Then I refine - I try to write a song at least 3-4 times in hopes of finding the right tune and chord for the overall piece. Then it’s just play, play, and play until I hear something else.  I’ll do a final refinement and finally make a working demo. It's a lengthy process but it helps us to vet our best work."                                          

One of my favorite things to do when presented with new tunes is to figure out what time of day and mood each song would be appropriate for. The Bergamot’s album Tones is full of late-night driving songs, music for early morning in the mountains, and everywhere in between. However, the late-night vibe is particularly prevalent (at least for me); we all know the montage of taking a car across the country through the darkest hours, letting our thoughts escape and clearing our heads. I asked Hoff if he had any recommendations for those music fans and professionals who are doing a lot of late-night cross-country driving this summer: "Well if you have not checked out our song ‘Alive’ or ‘Forget About Tomorrow’ those would be easy picks for the late night crowd. The last one to check out would be ‘Feels the Same’ - very much like an auditory shot of caffeine. Other than that... I am always loving Albert Hammond Jr.'s work - I just love that east coast vibe."

If you haven’t heard the Bergamot yet, keep your eyes and ears on them. They’re going places, and I can’t wait to hear what they sound like in the future. I highly recommend Tones for any fans of feel-good music with a hopeful message and inspiring vibes. Some of you are traveling on the road this year, and this album may just be your new soundtrack. Happy listening!

Andrew Howie lives in Champaign and hides his pretentious music taste behind self-deprecating humor. If you seek radio hits, this is not the column you're looking for. Come here to find the acquired tastes, the obscure albums, the innovative and bizarre.